1. Don’t say Cheese.
One of the most common things we do as parents when we want our children to smile is to tell them to say “cheese”. Yes they might smile when they say this because this is what we have taught them . But is it the smile that is truly showing their personality and the smile we are desperately looking for, most likely not. One way around this is to find their interest. Make small talk with them to discover their favorite foods, TV shows or characters. This will also help them become comfortable around the camera. You can talk to the while taking photos of them and just take photos of them talking to you or if they seem very uncomfortable just talk to them without taking photos of them. Once you have a favorite such as Pizza. Then direct the child in the pose you want them in if you want them posed. I have found that photos of my children that are not posed are the most interesting and truly show their personality and interest. But once you have them where you would like them you tell them to say “Pizza” and then add in something that does not match or make sense like Pizza and peanut butter. Then watch for the smile and make sure you are quick it happens quickly.
2. Don’t smile!
Sometimes I have children come in the studio and not want to smile at all. This can be challenging and if it’s your child it can become very frustrating. Don’t get frustrated though you can change this and get a beautiful smile. If I do have a situation like this I usually with have small talk with them and photograph this conversation with them in the rare chance they think of something that gives a little smirk or smile. Once I have established their interest and they have become comfortable in front of the camera I will tell them “now I don’t want you to smile not even a smirk can you do that?” I will then say “don’t smile I don’t want to see your teeth it looks like you are going to smile but don’t do it”. Sooner or later they will give me a smirk which will end up into a full natural smile. Other ways you can get a smile this way is to have them make the scariest face they can think of and when they do you as the photographer need to shriek in fear and this will make them laugh and give you a great smile.
3. Make it fun.
Sometimes a photo shoot for child is boring. One way to get a child to smile is to make a photo shoot fun. When I am doing a photo shoot with a toddler I usually leave the shoot tired because I am making it fun by always running around and interacting with them instead of just being behind the camera and expecting them to have fun without me interacting with them. Make sure you make it fun for them whether it be having them pose in a silly way grab a chair or prop they think is funny or they want to take a picture with. Or tell them I’m going to say freeze and when I do I want you to freeze (this can be a fun game to play) and then after you take a picture tell them to unfreeze and you can usually get a natural smile then. Sometime going from a goofy pose to one you more desire and help them corporate with you and give you a great smile. Be goofy and make goofy faces and noises with them. Sometime I will tell them “do you see the frog in my camera, watch very closely he will wink at you when I take a picture “.